Two sailors who helped in the four-day battle to put out a massive fire aboard the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard in San Diego last week have tested positive for COVID-19 after exhibiting symptoms, Naval officials confirmed Monday.
One sailor was part of a fire crew battling the blaze that decimated the amphib, while the second sailor was serving in a support function, Naval Surface Forces spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman said.
Citing privacy regulations, Schwegman declined to identify the sailors who were sickened.
She also declined to identify the local commands of the afflicted sailors, citing Defense Department policy for not naming units that suffer COVID-19 outbreaks.
It was unclear whether the two sailors contracted the novel coronavirus during last week’s firefighting efforts or at some other point, she said.
“Contract tracing identified 27 close contacts,” Schwegman said, adding that those contacts where placed in a so-called “restriction of movement,” or ROM, for isolation and monitoring.
“The Navy continues to implement COVID-19 mitigation measures to protect the health of our force,” she said.
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News of the COVID cases was first reported late last week by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
According to a Navy tally as of July 15, 5,084 sailors have contracted COVID-19, and 3,363 have recovered.
The Bonhomme Richard blaze was called away at 8:30 a.m. July 12 and was not declared out until Thursday.
Hundreds of sailors from across the waterfront helped battle the blaze, which officials said is believed to have started in a lower cargo hold and spread to the entirety of the ship, with internal temperatures at times reaching 1,200 degrees.
At a press conference Friday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday promised a thorough and transparent probe into the Bonhomme Richard fire.
Several investigations on different facets will be conducted into the fire, Gilday said.
“We will follow the facts,” he said. “We’ll be honest with ourselves.”
About Geoff Ziezulewicz
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.